Genomic Science Program. Click to return to home page.
Department of Energy Office of Science. Click to visit main DOE SC site.

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

Searchable Research Highlights for
Genomic Science Program

Highlights Matching Your Search

Return to Search

Listed by publication date


Published: December 27, 2016
Posted: January 24, 2017


Diverse microbial communities consume methane produced as a byproduct during decomposition of plant matter in lake sediments. Image courtesy of iStock


Microbial Community Interactions Drive Methane Consumption in Lakes

Understanding interactions among organisms in complex microbial communities sheds new light on globally significant environmental processes.

The Science  
Large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, are produced as a byproduct during decomposition of plant matter in the sediments of lakes and wetlands. Bacteria known as methanotrophs consume much of this methane before it can enter atmosphere. In a recent study, researchers examined community interactions among methanotrophs and other types of microbes that control this important process.

The Impact
The biological mechanisms underlying many important environmental processes can be understood only by examining cooperative processes performed by diverse communities of microbes. This study uses an elegantly constructed model experiment and genomic analysis to examine the genetic basis of these interactions and determine how they influence microbial consumption of methane in lake sediments.

Summary
Several decades of research have demonstrated the importance of bacterial methanotrophs in carbon cycling processes of lakes, wetlands, and a variety of other environments. However, methanotrophs exist as members of diverse communities of regularly co-occurring non-methanotrophic microbes, and the roles of these organisms in methane cycling are not well understood. In a recent study, researchers at the University of Washington assembled an experimental model community of methanotrophs and associated non-methanotrophic microbes previously isolated from lake sediments. Using a community-scale metaomics analysis of shifts in gene expression, the team tracked how the associated organisms influenced each other during methane-driven growth. The presence of non-methanotrophs was shown to trigger an enzymatic and metabolic shift in the methanotrophs, resulting in conversion of a portion of the available methane into methanol, which was released to fuel the growth of these microbes. Not yet clear is if the methanotrophs derive some form of reciprocal benefit from this “cross-feeding,” or if this represents a type of parasitism. In either case, these findings considerably alter current understanding of methanotrophy as it occurs in complex environmental communities and suggest that much remains to be learned about the basic biological mechanisms driving an important element of the global carbon cycle.

Contacts (BER PM)
Dr. Joseph Graber
DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Biological Systems Science Division
joseph.graber@science.doe.gov

(PI Contact)
Dr. Mary Lidstrom
University of Washington
lidstrom@u.washington.edu

Funding
This study was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Genomic Science program under award DE-SC-0010556.

Publication
S. M. B. Krause, T. Johnson, Y. S. Karunaratne, Y. Fu, D. A. C. Beck, L. Chistoserdova, and M. E. Lidstrom, “Lanthanide-dependent cross-feeding of methane-derived carbon is linked by microbial community interactions.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 114(2), 358-63 (2017). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1619871114. (Reference link)

Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Biosequestration
  • Research Area: Subsurface Biogeochemical Research
  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and DNA Sequencing
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Mission Science: Climate

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Search all BER Highlights

Recent Highlights

Apr 07, 2017
Tracking Genome Expansion in Giant Viruses
Piecemeal acquisition of genes from hosts may explain the rise of giant viruses. [more...]

Mar 17, 2017
Grasses: The Secrets Behind Their Stomatal Success
Finding a grass gene impacting stomatal morphology underscores the importance of developing a mut [more...]

Mar 15, 2017
Phosphate Stress and Immunity Systems in Plants are Orchestrated by the Root Microbial Community
Better understanding of these plant-microbe interactions could lead to improved bioenerg [more...]

Feb 10, 2017
Poplar Gene Enhances Lateral Root Formation and Biomass Growth Under Drought Stress
The Science  A newly characterized poplar gene expressed primarily [more...]

Jan 30, 2017
Vitamin B12 Plays Broad Role in Cellular Metabolism
Scarce compound is key for microbial growth and may help shape microbial communities. [more...]